BBL Championship
Plymouth University Raiders 90 (11,47,69) (Smith 38, Martin 20, Thomson 20)
Esh Group Eagles Newcastle 101 (31,55,77) (Hampton 32, Murray 16, Elston 13)

Charles Smith hit a massive 38 points to ensure Esh Group Eagles Newcastle bounced back from their first defeat in three months to beat Plymouth University Raiders 90-101, beating the Raiders for the fifth time in all competitions this season.

And it was clear from the outset that the title-chasing Eagles wanted to put Friday night’s defeat behind them as they raced into a 4-26 lead as Smith hit a trio of early three-pointers, and Andy Thomson added two more.

They prevented their hosts from scoring for more than six minutes, with only Brent Benson’s triple on the first quarter buzzer getting them into double-figures, and the lead was through twenty points when Smith connected from long-range again, for an 18-40 second stanza lead as the veteran forward had 16 points in 13 minutes on 4/5 shooting from beyond the arc.

But Raiders finished the half with a 16-5 surge, sparked by Joshua Wilcher’s triple, to dig themselves out of that hole and get back to 45-54. And as the second half began, the injury-ravaged Eagles, running with only six players, looked to be feeling the effects of back-to-back games. The hosts scored seven unanswered and were within one shot at 58-60 as Wilcher hit another three.

But Smith was there to halt the run, as he hit three baskets in a row, extending the lead back to 60-69 and giving them enough of a cushion to withstand the final Plymouth onslaught in the fourth, when Pierre Hampton got them back to 81-84. Smith gave Newcastle breathing room once more, Thomson scored again for 83-93 and when Smith added his sixth trey of the game, it was settled in Newcastle’s favour as they went through the century for the fifth time in their last five wins.